Survey Time!

Survey time! Do you think the piece on Amazon in the NYTimes today signals "the beginning of the end"? All opinions welcome. I promise.

See: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/17/technology/amazon-rewrites-the-rules-of-book-publishing.html?scp=2&sq=amazon&st=cse

16 comments:

Melissa said...

Oh God, no. Amazon is just another publisher -- and one who likely can't get books onto store shelves. Seriously, if you were Barnes & Noble, would YOU stock books published by Amazon???

Agency Gatekeeper said...

I most certainly would not. :)

Michelle said...

It sounds like Amazon is blowing their horn a lot. One good thing though - we'll finally get to see the 'wave of self-pubbed' books and how people respond to it. Yes! Finally! Some concrete data after close calls and speculation!

GK's mad agent skills > Amazon.

I think it boils down to what type of writers will use Amazon; those who just want to see their name in print/are in it for the money. People want agents so they can work together to make their work even better, and maybe have some fun times, and some fun communications and an awesome working relationship.

I don't think that can ever be usurped!

Agency Gatekeeper said...

I should hope not, Michelle.

Right now, I can't help but liken Amazon to those Broadway shows sponsored by Disney--occasional spectacles that can keep themselves in business through corporate sponsorship versus, say, quality.

But we'll see. If Amazon becomes a full-fledged house, continue to accept agentless work, offer competitive advances--and if they make up a standard contract that is, you know, fair (or close enough to fair that people go for it)--it'll be interesting.

Agency Gatekeeper said...

Not that all Disney-sponsored shows are terrible. The touring company of Beauty and the Beast did a wonderful job in San Francisco. In New York, however, the beast threw a tantrum onstage. ("But I WANT her to come to dinner!"--lots of paw-stomping--lots of whining--"But--but--but!") Ah, showbiz.

Holly Dodson said...

Here's the way I see it: As a writer, I dream of signing with a traditional house, not Amazon. I don't even buy books from Amazon, so why on earth would I let them publish mine?

To be honest, I think the market that stands to lose the most in this deal are the writers who self-pub through Amazon. I could be wrong on this, but wouldn't it stand to reason that Amazon will make their own books look "sweeter" in some way than the self-pubs? Up to this point, they've been pretty supportive of the self-pub movement, but I feel like this is a game-changer in that respect.

I don't know, just my thoughts. ;)

Agency Gatekeeper said...

Very possible, Holly. They'll have to do something to keep the two separate. I imagine they'll make separate imprints--but will readers know the difference? Will they recognize that something is an Amazon book (self-pubbed or not) versus a traditionally published book?

Guess we'll see.

Rowenna said...

I wondered the same thing as Holly--traditionally published books through traditional houses will still have a physical edge, but self-pubbed Amazon e-titles are bound to take a backseat through marketing or placement or big red "SELFPUB" e-stickers on them. Though, to be honest, I'm surprised they haven't already through one machination or another. I suppose I don't see much here besides Amazon taking up publishing and traditional houses declining to take up bookselling at the moment. So Amazon now has a generic brand--so does my local supermarket, yet I keep buying Kraft Mac'n'Cheese. Not beginning of the end IMO--just another wrinkle.

Eileen said...

I think Amazon's impact varies on where a writer is in their publishing career, as well as how book buying develops. A well established author may say, why not get a bigger piece of the pie? For a new or mid list author things may look different.

How many people switch to ebooks in the next few years? Right now the weakness Amazon has is they are not in bookstores and a significant number of books are still print/store bought. If this drops off that may change things.

As an author I am looking for the best business partners possible. I want an agent who gets me and my writing. I want an editor/house who is working to make my book the best it can be from edits to cover etc. I can't speak for others, but I love working with my house and adore my editor. It feels like a beneficial relationship. Publishing houses may have to look at splits in order to be competitive. They may take on fewer books, but do more marketing. Publishing houses may have to look at how they woo a writer to show going with them makes good business sense, but I do believe it can make good sense.

Can you explain how a publishing house could sue an author as was mentioned in the story? It seems weird to me that they could say you can't sell books to anyone else. Sure, you might have an option clause, but I didn't think that meant they could sue you if you didn't go with them for the option and if they shot it down as she implies they did how can they stop her from selling it elsewhere. I was confused.

Ryan Stuart Lowe said...

The thing I worry most about is Amazon's reputed number-crunching algorithms and such. For a long time, Amazon was selling books published by other companies, using a search engine geared towards showing you what they thought you *wanted* to see.

If they enter the publishing game now, their catalog will start to gently nudge everyone towards their own imprints. It's like the sponsored links in Google, or a library that intentionally places "inappropriate" material in a back corner -- we'll think that we're getting straightforward access, but Amazon will use its sway as a bookselling hub as a means of astroturfing new bestsellers.

Jessica Bell said...

I'm very curious to know if the amount of queries you receive have lessened over the past year or two as writers become more confident in going the publishing route alone. Have you physically "seen" less inbox action?

Because what I really want to know is if the change in the publishing climate has been noticeable on a small scale. Do you think less authors are querying agents? Because as long as authors keep querying, I don't think agents and publishers will die out. If there's a demand for something, people will find a way to provide it, in my opinion.

I think this is all just a big scary phase that will eventually come full circle. I don't think anyone is going to monopolize anything, I just think more publishing opportunities are gradually being added and people feel threatened by it.

London Crockett said...

I don't see Amazon becoming the monolith of publishing. Digital-only books may be cheaper to produce, but the Amazon brand will be reduced to uncurated self-publishers unless they invest in the same author development structures current presses have. They'll need area expertise across a broad spectrum of genres and topics; they'll need some sort of gate keepers to keep their editors from being overwhelmed by submissions that would normally be rejected by agents and they'll still need design and marketing people to promote the books. Not to mention people who know how to leverage foreign publishing rights, movie deals, etc. None of that is cheaper for Amazon than Random House.

Risk to the existing publishing industry seem to me to come from vampiric publishing. If Amazon focuses on luring proven authors away from traditional houses with better per book returns, it will force major changes to the way contracts are written. But at some point in the chain, somebody has to discover those authors and help finesse their early works into best sellers. I doubt Amazon will be part of that.

And, as Melissa noted, the Amazon will almost certainly persona non grata at any bricks-and-mortar book seller or competing e-storefronts.

Agency Gatekeeper said...

Jessica,
I don't see that happening--if anything, we're getting more queries than ever.

Good point. We'll see.

Agency Gatekeeper said...

Eileen,
I think they were more upset about the Non-Compete clause--if, for example, you've written a book about spaghetti for one publisher, said publisher could be miffed if you write a book about spaghettini for another publisher (even if they turned it down and you're free in terms of the option).

The clause is in there so that you can't publish something that could take away the readership for the book you have with them.

The case I saw had to do with short stories, which, one could argue, wouldn't necessarily violate this clause. It would depend how it was written, and other factors in the contract, too.

jseliger.com said...

My answer: maybe. To me, the real danger for publishers is "false negatives"—that is, writers publishers should've published but didn't, who then go on to realize they don't especially need publishers.

Y.S. Haagensen said...

I like this new dialogue between writers/editors/publishers as tech such as the kindle and iPad move ahead. It brings hope/quality/broader markets to the big publishing picture and speeds up the traditional process of getting books to 'market'. As a reader, I enjoy this immensely. As a writer, it seems the heat just turned up a notch.